When Karen Debow first started compiling her father's life history, she could have hardly known it would turn into a novel.
Debow had initially approached her father about getting one story in particular down for his posterity. She thought it was best to just get the answer everyone always wanted to know: how did he lose his arm?
"My dad lost his arm in the war," Karen Debow, author of Ben's War, told Root Story Studios. "He did not like to talk about it, and finally as an adult with children, I warned him...'Dad, unless you give me the whole story, you're going to be asked by 20 grandchildren one after the other how you lost your arm. Wouldn't it be better if I could write it out for them so that they would have it, could refer to it, and they would leave you alone?'"
Ben didn't go into much detail about his military experiences, but he did agree to share the story behind his missing arm to put the matter to rest. But, as Karen continued to ask questions, she realized she was uncovering an extraordinary story.
Not that her father agreed - about it being extraordinary.
"The one thing Dad did not like about my interviews with him was I was probing," Debow said. "I was asking a lot of questions and he kept saying, 'Why are you asking this? My life was not interesting.'"
But, Ben's life was interesting and the more Karen discovered, the more she grew to understand a man she had always feared as a child.
"I understood my father so much better," Debow said. "As a child I was afraid of him. He seemed quite mean and short tempered, and distant, and I didn't understand why until I delved into his childhood...and once I understood that, I was able to love him without fear."
Her initial write up of his life history was more clinical, she said, with more dates and places. But, something her father had said during their interviews continued to haunt her.
"He had said the hardest battle he fought after two years of war was the battle he fought on the white ship coming home," Debow said. "Whether he was just going to disappear in the crowds or whether he was going to man up and become a man, and continue with life...I wouldn't be here today if he had just disappeared off the ship."
Suddenly, Ben's life was more than that of answering the question about his missing arm. It was a story of survival, an inspirational legacy anyone could find strength in.
"I saw his whole life was one of a string of battles, which most people, if you look back on your life you realize you fought a lot of battles in your life," Debow said. "I wanted people to understand that you go through these battles of childhood, of teenagerhood, war, and still come out on top."
Her original life history of her father has now been transposed into a novel format, and is now available on Amazon in paperback or on Kindle.